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Emergence of New Bijural Terminology in Federal Legislation

Me Louise Maguire Wellington
(Terminology Update, Volume 35, Number 2, 2002, page 20)

Introduction

New bijural terminology has emerged in federal legislation with the first harmonization act, namely the First Act to harmonize federal law with the civil law of the Province of Quebec and to amend certain Acts in order to ensure that each language version takes into account the common law and the civil law (Harmonization Act, No. 1).1 This act came into force on June 1, 2001, as Chapter 4 of the Statutes of Canada 2001.

Given the innovative character of bijural drafting, bijural terminology records are published on the Department of Justice Internet site2 as a guide to explain the harmonization provisions brought about by the Harmonization Act, No. 1. The harmonization provisions also take into account common law in French. Harmonization changes made in tax legislation are also included on the Internet site. Additional terminology records will be published as further harmonization changes are made. These records are now accessible in TERMIUM Plus®, the Government of Canada’s linguistic data bank.

Canada boasts not only two official languages but also two legal systems: civil law in Quebec and common law in the other provinces and territories. One of the main objectives of the Government of Canada and of the Department of Justice is to ensure that each and every one of us has access to legislation that reflects both the major legal traditions of our country.

The Harmonization Act, No. 1 is the first in a series of acts that will harmonize hundreds of federal statutes that refer to provincial private law. Federal regulations will also be harmonized. This exercise was established in connection with the coming into force in 1994 of the Civil Code of Quebec, which substantially modifies civil law concepts, institutions and terminology.

This harmonization project is a unique legal undertaking, unprecedented in the world. Harmonization will allow federal legislation to become more accessible by making sure that it includes both of these major legal traditions in both official languages.

What is meant by "harmonization?"

The objective of harmonization is not to make civil law and common law uniform but rather to ensure that federal legislation uses terminology that respects the concepts of each of Canada’s legal systems. The meaning of "harmonization" could not be expressed any better than was done by Professor Nicholas Kasirer of the Research Centre for Private and Comparative Law at McGill University. Appearing before the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs on March 14, 2001, Professor Kasirer said the following about Bill S-4:

"harmonization" . . . This is one remarkable legislative metaphor . . . I believe this is an invitation for us to meditate on the acoustic qualities, on the acoustic qualities of federal law being expressed, as I say, as a song with four voices, through the combined effect of the English and French official bilingualism and of the bijuralism based on the complementary character of provincial common law . . . the word "harmonize" refers to the values of tolerance, diversity and serenity which seem to be the symbolic foundation of Bill S-4.3

It is therefore not simply a matter of new terminology but rather a legislative approach that fully embraces both of the country’s legal traditions. As former Minister of Justice Anne McLellan stated before the parliamentary committee:

Unfortunately, for many years, federal statutes did not adequately reflect the presence of civil law concepts as they touched on private law issues. In the preamble to Bill S-4, we acknowledge that the civil law system in the province of Quebec is a key component of that province’s uniqueness. It is the only province that has a civil law system. Since bijuralism is an important part of what Canada is, we want to ensure that our federal statutes reflect civil law principles and concepts where it is relevant for them to do so.4

Complementarity

Provincial legislation complements federal legislation in matters of property and civil rights,5 unless otherwise provided by law. This is what is meant by complementarity or suppletive application of provincial legislation. For example, although the federal Parliament has exclusive jurisdiction over bankruptcy and insolvency, it often refers to the concept of security developed in provincial private law, particularly in matters involving distribution.6

In situations of complementarity, reference must be made to the rules, principles and concepts in force in the province at the time when the federal enactment is applied. The new section 8.1 of the Interpretation Act,7 added to reflect section 8 of the Harmonization Act, No. 1, enshrines this principle as follows:

Both the common law and the civil law are equally authoritative and recognized sources of the law of property and civil rights in Canada and, unless otherwise provided by law, if in interpreting an enactment it is necessary to refer to a province’s rules, principles or concepts forming part of the law of property and civil rights, reference must be made to the rules, principles and concepts in force in the province at the time the enactment is being applied.

Therefore, when a federal enactment is applied in Quebec, it is civil law and not common law that complements the federal enactment in matters of property and civil rights. Similarly, of course, common law is the suppletive law to federal legislation in the other provinces and territories of Canada.

Dissociation or "unless otherwise provided by law"

When a legal rule prohibits suppletive application of provincial legislation, the situation is referred to as dissociation. For instance, the definition of "Canadian maritime law" in section 2 of the Federal Court Act8 expressly excludes the application of provincial private law. This is what is meant by "unless otherwise provided by law." The same is true when federal legislation defines a concept such as a "common-law spouse," rather than leaving it to the provincial legislation.

When reading federal legislation, always keep in mind section 8.1 of the Interpretation Act, mentioned above, as well as the new section 8.2, also added to reflect section 8 of the Harmonization Act, No. 1, which is the tool for interpreting bijural provisions. Section 8.2 reads as follows:

Unless otherwise provided by law, when an enactment contains both civil law and common law terminology, or terminology that has a different meaning in the civil law and the common law, the civil law terminology or meaning is to be adopted in the Province of Quebec and the common law terminology or meaning is to be adopted in the other provinces.

Bijural terminology records

To make bijural enactments, it is sometimes possible to use common terminology (example: acquisition/acquisition) for civil law and common law. But different terms are sometimes required to adequately capture the concepts of each system (example: immeuble/immovable for civil law and biens réels/real property for common law).

The bijural terminology records explain the difficulties of the original provision for the target audience and describe the solution adopted to solve the problem. There is a heading for the expression proper to civil law and common law in both official languages. (See example below.)

Additional information on harmonization and bijuralism

To learn more about the history, methodology and other aspects of harmonization and bijuralism, see The Harmonization of Federal Legislation with the Civil Law of the Province of Quebec and Canadian Bijuralism, Second Publication on the Department of Justice’s Web site: http://canada.justice.gc.ca/en/dept/pub/hfl/table.htm (en).

NOTES

Bijural terminology records example
English Français

Subject Filed(s)

· Law and Justice

· Bijuralism (Civil Law/Common Law)

Domaine(s)

· Droit et justice

· Bijuridisme (Droit civil/Common Law )

real property

CORRECT, COMMON LAW

immeubles

CORRECT, DROIT CIVIL, MASC ,PLUR

immovables

CORRECT, DROIT CIVIL

biens réels

CORRECT, COMMON LAW ,MASC ,PLUR

biens-fonds

VOIR FICHE, MASC, PLUR

EX: [Harmonized provision.] 4. Except as to mortgages on real property or hypothecs on immovables, whenever any interest is, by the terms of any written or printed contract, whether under seal or not, made payable at a rate or percentage per day, week, month, or at any rate or percentage for any period less than a year, no interest exceeding the rate or percentage of five per cent per annum shall be chargeable, payable or recoverable on any part of the principal money unless the contract contains an express statement of the yearly rate or percentage of interest to which the other rate or percentage is equivalent. [Federal Law-Civil Law Harmonization Act, No. 1, S.C. 2001, c. 4, s. 91.]

EX (exemple): [Disposition harmonisée.] 4. Sauf à l’égard des hypothèques sur immeubles ou biens réels, lorsque, aux termes d’un contrat écrit ou imprimé, scellé ou non, quelque intérêt est payable à un taux ou pourcentage par jour, semaine ou mois, ou à un taux ou pourcentage pour une période de moins d’un an, aucun intérêt supérieur au taux ou pourcentage de cinq pour cent par an n’est exigible, payable ou recouvrable sur une partie quelconque du principal, à moins que le contrat n’énonce expressément le taux d’intérêt ou pourcentage par an auquel équivaut cet autre taux ou pourcentage. [Loi d’harmonisation  1 du droit fédéral avec le droit civil, L.C. 2001, ch. 4, a. 91.]

EX: [Provision prior to harmonization.] 4. Except as to mortgages on real property, whenever any interest is, by the terms of any written or printed contract, whether under seal or not, made payable at a rate or percentage per day, week, month, or at any rate or percentage for any period less than a year, no interest exceeding the rate or percentage of five per cent per annum shall be chargeable, payable or recoverable on any part of the principal money unless the contract contains an express statement of the yearly rate or percentage of interest to which the other rate or percentage is equivalent. [Interest Act, R.S.C. (1985), c. I-15].

OBS Problem: The concept of "bien-fonds," even though known in civil law and common law in French, does not correspond to the common law notion of "real property" used in the English version. Moreover, in the English version, only common law terminology is used.

OBS — Solution: In the French version, the terms "immeubles" and "biens réels" are inserted to replace the term "bien-fonds" in order to reflect the civil law and common law in French. In the English version, the term "immovables" is added in order to reflect civil law.

EX (exemple) : [Disposition avant l’harmonisation.] 4. Sauf à l’égard des hypothèques sur biens-fonds, lorsque, aux termes d’un contrat écrit ou imprimé, scellé ou non, quelque intérêt est payable à un taux ou pourcentage par jour, semaine ou mois, ou à un taux ou pourcentage pour une période de moins d’un an, aucun intérêt supérieur au taux ou pourcentage de cinq pour cent par an n’est exigible, payable ou recouvrable sur une partie quelconque du principal, à moins que le contrat n’énonce expressément le taux d’intérêt ou pourcentage par an auquel équivaut cet autre taux ou pourcentage. [Loi sur l’intérêt, L.R.C. (1985), ch. I-15.]

OBS Problème : Le terme « bien-fonds », bien que connu en droit civil et common law d’expression française, ne correspond pas à la notion de «  real property » de common law utilisée dans la version anglaise. De plus, seule la terminologie de common law est utilisée dans la version anglaise.

OBS Solution : Dans la version française, les termes « immeubles ou biens réels » remplacent le terme « biens-fonds » afin de refléter le droit civil et la common law d’expression française. Dans la version anglaise, le terme «  immovables » est ajouté afin de refléter le droit civil.